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No-fault Default, Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, and Financial Institutions

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  • Robert C. Merton
  • Richard T. Thakor

Abstract

This paper analyzes the costs and benefits of a no-fault-default debt structure as an alternative to the typical bankruptcy process. We show that the deadweight costs of bankruptcy can be avoided or substantially reduced through no-fault-default debt, which permits a relatively seamless transfer of ownership from shareholders to bondholders in certain states of the world. We show that potential costs introduced by this scheme due to risk shifting can be attenuated via convertible debt, and we discuss the relationship of this to bail-in debt and contingent convertible (CoCo) debt for financial institutions. We then explore how, despite the advantages of no-fault-default debt, there may still be a functional role for the bankruptcy process to efficiently allow the renegotiation of labor contracts in certain cases. In sharp contrast to the human-capital-based theories of optimal capital structure in which the renegotiation of labor contract in bankruptcy is a cost associated with leverage, we show that it is a benefit. The normative implication of our analysis is that no-fault-default debt, when combined with specific features of the bankruptcy process, may reduce the deadweight costs associated with bankruptcy. We discuss how an orderly process for transfer of control and a predetermined admissibility of renegotiation of labor contracts can be a useful tool for resolving financial institution failure without harming financial stability.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert C. Merton & Richard T. Thakor, 2021. "No-fault Default, Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, and Financial Institutions," NBER Working Papers 28341, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:28341
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    1. Bunderson, Stuart & Thakor, Anjan V., 2022. "Higher purpose, banking and stability," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 140(C).

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • G23 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Non-bank Financial Institutions; Financial Instruments; Institutional Investors
    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • G33 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Bankruptcy; Liquidation
    • G38 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • K12 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Contract Law
    • L22 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Organization and Market Structure

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